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Planting a Privacy Screen

Using Colorful Bushes to Make Your Landscaping More Private

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Will you be planting a privacy screen? Gibraltar azalea (photo) will give it color.

Picture of Gibraltar azalea.

David Beaulieu

Before finalizing your plan for planting a privacy screen -- whether it be a hedge or a loose border -- there are some other factors to consider. One factor in shrub selection to consider, in addition to height, is the amount of sun this part of your yard gets. Sunlight requirements for flowering bushes can be hard to meet, if you have a lot of shade. As mentioned on Page 2, yews will tolerate some shade, as will Canadian hemlock trees (Tsuga canadensis), andromeda shrubs (Pieris japonica), azaleas and rhododendrons and viburnums. But you will certainly have more options if the area you've chosen for building a privacy screen is sunny, and this article focuses on shrubs intended for areas receiving at least 6 hours of sun per day. Most flowering bushes require this much sun.

Design considerations will also influence your shrub selection for building a living privacy screen, including:

  • The form of the shrub.
  • The texture of the shrub's foliage or bark.
  • The color provided by the shrub, be it through the foliage, the fruit, or -- with flowering bushes -- the blooms.

Tall Flowering Bushes for a Privacy Screen: Blackhaw Viburnum

Blackhaw viburnum is a deciduous shrub whose scientific plant name is Viburnum prunifolium. Its white flowers in May turn into edible and attractive fruits by fall. Its fall foliage color is purplish to bronzy-red or crimson. Reaching a maximum height of about 15 feet, the shrub is a bit taller than it is wide (maximum width of about 12 feet). Grow blackhaw viburnums in planting zones 3-9.

Intermediate Flowering Bushes for a Privacy Screen: Rose of Sharon

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is a flowering shrub, also known as althea, that can reach a height of 8'-10' with a spread of 4'-6'. These bushes profit from pruning. Blooms can be red, pink, blue, purple or white. Rose of sharon works well in shrub borders, because of its upright form. A row of these shrubs standing shoulder-to-shoulder forms a colorful privacy screen. Zones 5-9. For more information, please consult my plant profile on rose of sharon.

Small Flowering Bushes for a Privacy Screen: Compact American Cranberrybush Viburnum

Viburnum trilobum 'Compactum' branches in a dense pattern. You won't have to prune compact American cranberrybush viburnum very much, which is why it's suitable for low-care loose borders. This 4'x4' rounded shrub blooms in late spring. Its white blossoms transition into red fruits by autumn. Wild birds eat the berries. Its glossy leaves are green in summer; in autumn they become purplish or red. Very cold-tolerant, it reputedly can be grown as far north as zone 2.

There is good reason for the inclusion of two viburnums here. Viburnum flowering bushes provide year-round interest. Their spring profusion of white to pink flowers give way in summer to large leaves that often exhibit an intricate texture. Red to purple foliage and colorful berries adorn the fall landscape, while a dramatic branching structure provides visual interest during the winter.

On Page 4 we'll consider evergreen shrub choices for a privacy screen....

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